Cadets use digital training tools at the Mission Training Complex

By Alexandra Kocik
U.S. Cadet Command Public Affairs Office

Third Regiment Cadet Tori Holtestaul from Claremont McKenna College spends time with the First Person Simulation at the Mission Training Complex at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. U.S. Army photo by Jesse Beals

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD – After running, climbing and strategizing their way through the many tests of the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), Cadets go to the Mission Training Complex to explore resources found on every Army post.

In an auditorium with stadium seating and a huge projection screen, Cadets watch a training movie. Further down the hall their peers stare at computer screens while negotiating pixilated vehicles through tough terrain. Others sit in large compartments surrounded by television screens to mimic conditions drivers of the Stryker armored vehicles face.

“We are not training Cadets through this exercise but are making them aware of training options available to them,” said Maj. Mike Stinchfield, simulation officer for LDAC.

There are several reasons why the Army uses digital simulations to help Soldiers practice before heading to the field. Every member of the military has access to similar Mission Training Complex on posts around the world, ensuring all Soldiers are equipped with similar knowledge of how these new technologies are used. Using simulations saves the cost of using real ammunition, artillery or fuel during practice.

The United States armed forces must now be a “digital Army” in a digital age, Stinchfield said.

“It’s not just maps and compasses in the field anymore, it’s now digital communication systems,” Stinchfield said. “These facilities allow Soldiers to master this technology before they have to use it in the field.”

The auditorium in this training facility is not for the next Blockbuster hit. Cadets view a 100-minute-long movie describing the decisions several officers made in the field. The Leader Development Team created this interactive video, or Decision Making Exercise (DME), using a mixture of interviews with officers and simulated images from the First Person Simulations (FPS) that Soldiers use on the computers down the hall, Stinchfield said. After showing the Cadets the terrain, the interviewed officer gives several options they could have chosen. The movie is then paused as Cadets split into groups to discuss what they feel is the best course of action before learning the outcome of the officer’s actual decision.

Third Regiment Cadet Robert Kurz from the University of Delaware uses the Stryker Driver Training Simulator at the Mission Training Complex at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. U.S. Army photo by Jesse Beals

Cadets also try the FPS available in large computer labs. This simulation requires one Cadet to act as the driver while another is the passenger. A “Blue Force Tracker”, a map which highlights battle plans and locates enemy forces, sits between the two Cadets. By using these map simulations, Soldiers practice using a tracker identical to those found in Stryker vehicles. To highlight the importance of this practice, Cadets are shown the inside of actual Strykers and given the opportunity to use Stryker driver training systems.

This Driver Training Simulation is more immersive than the computer screens in other FPS. The front seat of a Stryker is replicated by a small container full of all the controls found in a real armored vehicle and set on hydraulics. The windshield is simulated by three large televisions which show scenes Soldiers encounter in the field, such as driving through open terrain. As the Soldier “drives” through this simulation, the hydraulics shift and bounce to mimic actual driving.

The final training opportunity available to all military personnel is the artillery Call For Fire (CFF) familiarization simulator. Cadets sit in front of a wide projection screen with military binoculars to practice adjusting artillery fire. The video then shows where the artillery rounds would have impacted on the simulated battlefield. This helps Cadets learn more about “walking” artillery toward an objective in a safe setting.

The officers of tomorrow use today’s technology to practice before leading their Soldiers into battle.

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